Monday, March 13, 2017

A Warm Weather Break

I do enough whining about cold weather that everyone who knows me is painfully aware of how I feel about living in Logan during the winter.  Therefore, spring break is an extremely important vacation opportunity for me, one that has to involve warm weather.  We started planning this trip last fall.  We decided on Indio, California because it's all but a guarantee that the weather will be amazing.  It would also put us in close proximity to Justin's Grandpa, giving him an opportunity to spend time with Vivian and Ivan.  We invited Justin's brother Christopher with his wife Brooke, and their daughter Caroline to join us.  We have been looking forward to this vacation for months.  That's kind of a big deal for us, since most of our vacations aren't planned far enough in advance to be looked forward to for that long.  This one is the exception.  We were counting down the months, weeks and finally days as it got closer.  We had drill the weekend before, and we had the misfortune of leaving from Orem last Sunday night after drill to drive to a hotel in Cedar City.  The weather was terrible.  For miles we crept along I-15 at 35mph while I wondered if we made the right choice leaving that night.  The roads were covered in snow, the wind gusts were (according to warning signs along the freeway) 70+ mph, and the snow was coming down so fast that my visibility was zilch.  The only thing I could see was the tail lights of the semi in front of me that I was following.  Five long hours later we arrived in Cedar City, grateful to be there and not in some snowdrift on the side of the freeway.  The kids slept the whole way there, and were up again at the crack of dawn.  None of that was how I had hoped to start our relaxing spring break.  However, the next day the drive was long, but went much better.  We didn't arrive in Indio until almost 6pm.  Christopher and Brooke had already spent the weekend in California.  But, they were unable to meet us at the timeshare for a few hours because Caroline was being seen at the urgent care for hives from an allergic reaction.  This is a  game that we have also played on vacation, and it's not a very fun game.  Thankfully, she was fine for the rest of the trip.

Our first day in Indio we spent most of the day just relaxing at the timeshare while Grandpa and his wife Linda visited with us.

For some reason she thought it would be a great idea to just hold herself up with the handles, so Justin figured out a way to make sure she could do it without drowning.  It apparently wasn't as much fun as she had envisioned since this position in the tube was abandoned pretty quickly.

Sitting still in the tube isn't really her idea of a good time.  It's more fun for her to be climbing all over her dad.
The weather was almost too good to be true.  It was in the high 80's and, the sky was cloudless.  We had lunch outside on the balcony, and while the girls napped we got a chance to sit and visit with Grandpa and Linda.  We took the kids to the playground for a little bit after their nap, and then Grandpa took us all to dinner before we had to say goodbye.  Hopefully it won't be so long before we see them again next time!

We spent the next day at Seaworld.  It took us a while to get there, and at one point I was certain that Justin had taken us there on the longest possible route, but I stand corrected.  We spent the next several hours with Christopher and Brooke, dragging our daughters from one end of the park to the other to take in the sights of a Beluga whale, orcas, dolphins, a pair of walruses (my personal favorite), flocks of penguins, sea lions, seals, sharks, turtles, and fish.
Vivian is fascinated with the turtles, and with this one the sentiment seemed to be mutual.

Checking out the sharks.

Drying their hands after washing up from feeding fish to the sea lions.  There is a video, but it's too big to upload here, so check facebook for that.
After a very full day of exploring the park we all loaded back into our cars and set off for Riverside for dinner with Justin's Aunt Melinda, and her husband Brian, and daughter Loren.  The dinner was great, and it's always nice to see them and get a chance to catch up a little bit.  When we left I think Vivian was asleep before the car even left the parking lot.  We got back to the timeshare, and I was getting the little ones changed and ready for bed, so I was the last one ready.  When I came in the bedroom for family evening prayers I found this:
It was the end of a very long day
So it ended up being just prayers with Justin and I that night.  

We slept with the blinds open while we were there, because it's so nice waking up to sunshine, especially when I live in a place where I have insulating curtains over all our windows.  It also means that we wake up early.
Sunshine isn't an effective alarm clock for everyone.
We still managed to have a slow start to the day, but Christopher and Brooke didn't seem to mind.  We spent another day just at the resort, hanging out at the pool and lazy river.  This isn't our usual vacation style, but we enjoyed the change of pace.

I wish that I had thought to take a picture while Caroline was still in the pool with her dad, but by the time it dawned on me to get out the camera she was with Brooke and I lounging around in the pool chairs. 
This was really Ivan's first time enjoying the outdoors, and he is a fan.
The next morning Christopher and Brooke had to return to Idaho for Christopher's drill weekend, and Justin and I set off for Joshua Tree National Park.  We decided to try and tackle a 3 mile hike to an oasis.  I was a bit concerned about the length since this was the first time that we were having Vivian hiking on her own without the backpack.  My worries were unfounded.  She loved it.  In fact I had to keep asking her not to run on the way there.  As we were nearing the oasis we got passed by a marine (easily identified as such because, although clearly off duty, he still insisted on wearing his tiny green PT shorts) who ran the entire thing up and back, apparently without twisting an ankle.  As he was passing us again on his way out Vivian remarked "well that guy is running Mom..."  I briefly wanted to stick out my foot and trip him just to prove to Vivian that it was a bad idea.
We need to find her a tiny camelback

Finally arriving at the oasis
Although she is a very good little hiker, Vivian's legs are still pretty short, so it took us quite a while to actually get there.  In fact, I'm not sure that we had really thought that part through.  Ivan was probably more relieved than anyone to arrive at the oasis and get a break from the baby carrier.

The oasis itself was not very big, so we didn't spend a ton of time there.  Justin and I are always talking about how some day we want to go to Morocco and take a camel trip out to an oasis in the desert.  This wasn't quite to the same scale as what we have in mind for that  trip, but for now it will have to do.

Justin was brimming over with pride, so he insisted on stopping to take pictures of her hiking back out.

Ivan and I preparing for departure.
On the hike back out there was a rather lengthy, steep incline where Justin had to carry Vivian, but most of the hike she did on her own.  It took us the better part of the day to complete, so next we decided to just move on to an area of the park where we could play around on some rocks.

Justin played with Vivian for a little while, and then came and took a turn with Ivan while I joined Vivian up on the rocks.  This picture makes me think that my days as favorite parent might be numbered with this one too.

As we were leaving we stopped to get a picture with this beautiful sunset.  I love desert sunsets.
Vivian was asleep the minute we got her in the car, and back asleep the second her head hit the pillow back at the resort.  We left early the next morning and decided to detour back through the park.  We stopped to take a few pictures along the way.

The wet weather has the desert flowers all in bloom.
Our traditional sign picture
Unfortunately we missed a key turn on our route back to the freeway, and we wound up driving a much slower route, but the emptiness of the desert is beautiful in it's own way, and we weren't sorry to spend the extra time away from the frantic traffic.  We made it back to Orem late that night, spent the night with my parents, attended church in their ward and arrived back in Logan Sunday evening.  The weather here seems to have taken a turn for the better in our absence.  While I would have liked another week, or two, or three in Indio, this definitely beats the temperatures of the past few months.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

We Turned Five!

This year over President's Day we celebrated our fifth anniversary.  We decided several months ago that we wanted to take a trip somewhere for this break.  We decided to take a camping trip to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  The forecast was reading sunny skies and warm temperatures, and we were counting the days and congratulating ourselves on finding such an ideal location.  However, as the holiday got closer the weather forecast took a turn for the worse.  A week or so out we were feeling pretty unhappy with weather reports for a gloomy, rainy, cold weekend all across the west.  Not only did the weather seem uninviting, but a brief perusal of hotel rooms in the nearby vicinity made us realize that everyone on earth seemed to be planning a vacation in the surrounding regions that weekend too.  Justin gave up and said that we should stay home.  I decided to ignore his advice and figure something else out.  I needed another break from Logan.  The winter here is dreadful.  After several failed attempts to find a place to go that wasn't going to break the bank, and wasn't already booked to capacity I finally settled on Miracle Hot Springs in Buhl, Idaho.  I perused their website, read all about their little dome overnight accommodations and decided to just go for it.  They were booked up, but the Banbury Hot Springs down the road is owned by the same company and they had a "bunkhouse" open for the same price as one of the camping domes.  The person on the phone reiterated several times that I would still be allowed to swim at Miracle Hot springs.  I booked it.  When Justin got home I announced to him that we would be spending Friday night at the hot springs, and the rest of the weekend in Boise visiting his family, assuming they were open to hosting us.  Thankfully Justin and my in-laws seemed okay with this plan.

Immediately after I made the reservation both of our cars broke down.  It's like our cars sit out there and conspire against us, choosing to have issues at the same time.  We got ourselves a rental car, but the only one that was available was a Jeep Patriot.  This was not our first choice, but it was what they had available, so we took it and Friday afternoon we set off for Buhl, Idaho.  We had just exited the freeway when Justin dropped the directions to the hot springs between the two seats.  He asked me to reach between the seats to see if I could retrieve them.  I couldn't, because my ring was getting in the way.  I went to take off the diamond, but accidentally pulled the wedding band off too, which slipped off and immediately fell into the emergency brake.  Okay, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was because it fell into the emergency brake.  I didn't even know such a thing was possible.  It was quite upsetting.  In the end the car rental place took it to a mechanic who ripped apart the middle console, couldn't find it and said that to continue retrieval efforts they would have to dismantle the brake at a cost that did not seem reasonable.  Additionally there was still a possibility that the ring had actually fallen out of the car.  We decided that it made more sense to just replace the ring.  It wasn't quite how I had planned to celebrate five years of marriage.  I guess nothing will say "I still love you five years later" like a new wedding ring. Besides, I'm starting to consider this an opportunity to replace it with something a little fancier this time.  We will see...

The good news is that I was able to get the directions out and despite a key road closure due to a collapsed bridge, Justin still navigated us to the bunkhouse at Banbury Hot Springs.  The bunkhouse was actually pretty great.  It was small, but so is our little family.  It's equipped with a space heater, so we turned that on to get the place warming up and left to go check out the hot springs.  I could instantly see why the reservation clerk had emphasized repeatedly that we could still swim at Miracle hot springs.  I'm sure Banbury is fine, but Miracle is much nicer.  We decided to go that route.  If you're staying at the resort the swimming fee is included.  However, for an additional $4 we could book an hour in a "private pool."  We decided that we should try that out, see how it goes.  So we did, and we're not sorry.  Now when they say "small private pool" they do mean small.  You're not going to be doing any kind of laps in this pool.

Ivan spent most of our hour quietly napping on the bench of our private dressing room.
The water was probably a little warmer than I would have liked.  Allegedly you can adjust the temperature, but we didn't really know what we were doing, so we didn't attempt to mess with it too much.  Aside from that, it was about 40 degrees outside and there was ice cold rain coming down making the warm water feel even better.  However, it was much too warm for little Ivan, so he ended up on the sidelines for this adventure.

After our hour in the private pool we went over to the large public pools.  There are four of them, at varying degrees of warmth.  Justin and Vivian spent the evening playing around in the coolest one, which is neck deep on me, and perfect temperature for small children.  Had the temperature outside not dropped into the 30's I probably would have taken Ivan in with me.  After the sun went down the whole place got incredibly steamy, and it was actually hard to even see what was going on in the pool at all from my spot on the bench with Ivan.  Justin reported to me later that the pools turned into a big makeout spot as it got darker.  Nothing about that is shocking, but the part that left us surprised is that these PDA offenders looked to be in their fifties.  Late fifties.  Not just one couple, several.  All over each other according to Justin.  There in the midst of them was Vivian in her little water wings splashing around with her dad.  
Ivan and his dad in the dressing room 
Justin and Vivian seemed to thoroughly enjoy their evening in the pool.  We finally left and got Justin's birthday dinner (I guess I should add that his birthday is the day before our anniversary) at what I believe to be the only steakhouse nearby, the Snake River Grill, and it was surprisingly good. 

Our night in the bunkhouse was uneventful.  It was situated out in the campground area, away from any other buildings or people, which did give it kind of a weird vulnerable feeling, but we kind of enjoyed the isolation.  The next morning we returned to Miracle Hot Springs to check out their resident alligator.  Vivian had been begging to see it ever since we'd made mention of it the previous day.  
that's one of the camping domes in the background.  They looked pretty nice.  

She wanted to know why the alligator was smiling at her.  
After that I took a turn splashing around in the pools with Vivian and we learned that the best time to visit these pools is early.  The pools were pretty empty when we first arrived around 9am (they open at 8am), and by the time we left an hour later the number of people there had easily tripled and there were more arriving all the time.  
In one of the smaller, warmer pools that Vivian liked because there was a bench that she could roam around on without having to be clinging to me the whole time.

In the biggest pool
It's not our typical vacation destination, but we definitely enjoyed it.  The subsequent visit to Boise provided a perfect escape for the holiday weekend.   I've warned Justin to prepare himself because this will not be the last time I drag him out to a hot springs destination.  I have already been plotting a visit to Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville, Utah.  I've heard nothing but rave reviews about the experience, and I can't wait to send Vivian down their water slide.  It's proximity to Logan makes me view it as a "must" while we are still living here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

How to Survive the Winter

As mentioned in a previous post, we've been dealing with a bad case of cabin fever at our house.  We've been shuttered inside with a tiny new baby, a toddler who has been going kind of crazy, and freezing temperatures outside.  A visit to the physical therapist has me mostly walking like a normal person, from one side of the apartment to the other.  It's been driving me crazy, and Justin crazy, and Vivian...poor Vivian.  We knew the situation had become desperate one evening when Vivian started racing back and forth between the living room and kitchen at full speed while screaming at the top of her longs.  Justin stopped her and asked what she was doing, she looked at him, and without a hint of anything but sincerity responded "just running back and forth screaming."  Justin and I looked at each other, and right there I think we were both game planning a vacation, because this sitting at home thing just wasn't working out.    

The next day we took a quick trip to Orem to see my family, and give Vivian a chance to play with her cousins.  She loved it.  It was not a fix to our problem.  We had to return to Logan for Justin to finish up his last few days of finals.  We attempted to fill our down time with shopping trips, and...okay, just shopping trips, because 1. we live in Logan, and it's very boring there in the winter.  2. the limited indoor activities that are available to small children are germ fairs, and I can't send Vivian there to pick up every nasty little bug in town and bring it home to her tiny brother.  So instead we've traversed every single aisle of our local Sam's Club, and Walmart, and the entire expanse of the Logan mall.  The mall is tiny, and can be explored in it's entirety inside of a couple of hours.  I know, because I've done it.  More than once.  

We took Vivian to a live nativity program, complete with sheep and a donkey.  She loved it.  It was ten degrees outside, it wasn't all that exciting, and the best part was the refreshments afterwards.  We loved it too, we were frozen, but we were outside!  Only for five minutes or so, since the majority of the program took place inside the warm chapel.  We drove around the valley looking for Christmas lights.  We found some decent displays.  We loved it, because we were doing something besides sitting at home, but the kids...yeah, it was definitely the kids, were crabby and so it was sort of short-lived.  We came home, we booked ourselves in for three nights at the timeshare in St. George, and called my parents to announce that we would be spending Christmas Eve with them on our way back to Logan.  We called Justin's parents to announce that we'll be visiting them next in Boise.  We started packing.  Finals were done, there just wasn't any reason to stay in that situation.  I've decided the key to surviving winter in Logan is to leave Logan as much as possible.

We made our escape Sunday evening.  Justin had a couple of drill days to make up from missing them for Ivan's birth (I just get to have them excused since I actually gave birth).  Since we were in Orem for a few days, Justin used the chance to take Vivian to a BYU basketball game.  They returned home happy, thrilled really, to have been out and about having fun outside of the house.  The next day we headed to warm, sunny St. George.  It was not warm, and it was not sunny in St. George.  It was cold and overcast.  We spent the first evening settling in, and watching BYU win their bowl game in a downpour.  The next day that storm moved into St. George.  We are not that easily deterred.  We loaded up the kids and drove to Zion National Park.  It was cold, it was wet, and rain had not been in the forecast.  We had nothing waterproof.  However, Zion is always beautiful.  Always.  We drove from one end of the canyon to the other, and out through the tunnel and back in again, taking in all the waterfalls, and the colors that are twice as vibrant when wet.  We attempted a hike, but we had nothing waterproof to shield Ivan from the cold rain, so a short way down the first trail we thought better of it and cut things short.  

Ivan is a big fan of me.  He just sort of tolerates his dad...sometimes.

This was during lunch in the car, to stay dry.

Vivian was loving the experience
During this lunch break I went to change Ivan's diaper as he was stretched out across my lap.  It was all going so well. I was just finishing up when he suddenly experienced an explosive poop.  Justin sitting next to me in the passenger's seat was covered.  He was too shocked at first to do anything but just sit there stunned, and then laugh, and then use dozens of wet wipes to wash off himself and everything in the nearby vicinity that was doused.  My little Ivan looked very content and happy with himself.

Prior to our attempted hike. It was only sprinkling lightly.
We can't catch the colors well, this doesn't do it justice.

A little family photo. It was raining pretty hard, so Ivan is just a little bundle.

Raindrops on the lens, but the canyon was amazing in the rain.
Even in the freezing cold rain, and from the confines of our car, Zion is spectacular, and I still love being there.  It was still pouring rain when we called it for the day and headed back to St. George.

The next morning we got a late start.  This happens a lot with a newborn it seems.  We're ready to leave, and Ivan needs to eat.  We're ready to leave and he blows out a diaper.  We're ready to leave and he wants to eat again.  We're ready to leave and Vivian needs a diaper change.  It went on and on like that for a while that morning, but we were eventually able to actually leave.  We headed straight to Snow Canyon State Park.  My family used to vacation there when I was younger, but I haven't been back on my own, so it's been years.  Why has it taken me so long to come back?  It's more beautiful than I remember.  

Still no sun anywhere to be found, but at least it wasn't raining.
It was still very cold, with a strong canyon wind, but we bundled up Ivan and decided to take the chance to tackle a couple of very short, easy hikes.  The first one was a little slot canyon, with a nearby overlook.  

She was unhappy about the idea of returning to the car.
Next we drove over to the petrified dunes and let Vivian play around on the slick rock.  It was really windy up on the rocks though, so our time there was a bit limited.  

It was beautiful, and worth braving the cold.
We called it and returned to the timeshare for Vivian's nap.  During her nap I turned on the TV to check the weather reports for the trip home the next day.  The first weather report was not encouraging.  A few minutes later they repeated the weather with the forecast adjusted, and it sounded even more worrisome.  When they repeated the weather a third time the weather man stated that for people planning on driving I-15 in Southern Utah to a Christmas destination, "if you haven't left yet, leave now."  We debated whether or not this applied to us.  At first we decided that it did not.  After thinking it over, and considering the fact that we now have a 2-year old and 3-week old in tow, we reconsidered and decided that it did in fact apply to us.  Justin started loading the car.  When Vivian woke up we explained to her that there was a little change of plans.  We told her that we wouldn't be going to see the nativity with real camels after all, but we could still go see the temple lights before we started the drive back to Grandma and Grandpa's.  We offered her french fries for dinner as a consolation, and she was easily persuaded.  World class parenting.  

We cruised back to the parents on clear roads. We got in late, but without incident, and judging on some of the weather reports we saw today, it seems like we made the right choice.  As Justin pointed out, even if the storm hadn't ever amounted to anything, we have two very small people counting us, which still made it the right choice.  We're still not ready to just be stuck at home, so next up we'll recharge a bit, give the kids a break from their car seats, and then see if we can't find a break in the snow to make our way to Idaho.